12 Things We Believe in Our 20s That Aren't Actually True


Our 20s is a defining period of time in our lives, to say the least. In the course of just a decade, we graduate college, move out on our own, start new jobs, and try to navigate life as adults. There are a lot of things we get right but a few we get wrong too. The key is to avoid buying into certain false ideas about your 20s so that you can focus on growing into the person you want to be. We took a look at a Quora thread that pointed out some common myths 20-somethings may think are true but aren't. Read on for advice that's good to have, regardless of your age.

1. Getting rejected is the worst thing that can happen.

It really isn't. In fact, it can be a really good thing, says Carolyn Cho. "Whether it was getting dumped or getting fired from a job, looking back I can honestly say that rejection taught me far more and had long-lasting positive benefits beyond whatever successes I've had. . . . Getting fired and waking up the next day as usual made me realize that failure isn't the end of the world. Getting dumped taught me the difference between a good and a bad relationship, something I already knew inside but refused to accept until the bad relationship was over. . . . When rejection teaches you something new and positive, then that's actually a pretty great thing."

2. You can always get healthy later.

It's easy to put off exercise and healthy eating when you are juggling so many different things in your 20s. But now is the time to establish good habits that you can continue to practice as you get older. "When you're younger, other parts of your body are stronger and can compensate for poor health habits, i.e. junk food, soda, alcohol, smoking, etc. You think it'll always be easy to get back into shape or become healthy. But in reality, health habits take time to build there's never a better time to start than now," says Joe Choi.

3. Being good at school means you'll be good at work.

The fact that you have done well academically doesn't necessarily mean that you will immediately or easily have success in the workplace, says Carolyn Cho. "I've had to swallow a big humility pill as I watch former fellow students who struggled through classes I breezed through now massively outpace me in career achievement. Being a great student does not mean you'll be great in the workplace. And that's OK."

4. If you make a mistake in your 20s, it will negatively impact your whole life.

Not true. While the choices we make certainly have an impact on what happens after, one wrong choice doesn't mean that your life is ruined. There are always ways to fix mistakes, learn from them, and grow into even better people than before. As Meggie Sutherland Cutter put it, "the sun will rise tomorrow, the birds will chirp, there will be another day to start over."

5. Everyone has to like you.

Inevitably, someone will always dislike you, Carolyn Cho notes. There are a vast array of different personalities and people in the world, and the idea that every single one is going to mesh well with you isn't all that realistic. "I wish I had figured this out a lot earlier and stopped trying so hard and worrying so much about it. I could have used all that time and put it to doing something far more fun and interesting, like learning a new language or playing the piano." Find the people that you do get along with well, and focus on cultivating meaningful relationships with them — forget about the ones that aren't worth the time.

6. Being educated means that you'll have all the answers.

Education is very important, and there is a lot that can be gained from having one. However, it is by no means the only way to gain knowledge and life experience. There are many things in life that can help you grow just as much as an education can. "I spent a fortune on an undergrad education in order to understand that there are no right or wrong answers to most questions in life. In fact, instead of seeing the world in terms of black and white, I learned to see it in shades of gray. There are many perspectives, many truths, and many ways of doing things — and no one answer is absolutely correct. Appreciate the nuances," says Aileen Shiue Wong.

7. Changing your location will make you happy.

While following your wanderlust and traveling to new places is an enriching and enlightening experience, moving to a new place should not be used as a solution to problems. "I've believed this and I see many people in their early 20s who believe the same so they travel, take off to a new city or get a nicer place. Happiness is more internal than anything," says Joe Choi.

8. Competition is more important than collaboration.

Many people, especially in the academic and professional worlds, see cutthroat competition as the only means of rising in their career path, but this is simply not the case. In our early years, a lot of emphasis is put on test scores, awards, and an empirical measurement of our accomplishments. What we're hardly ever told, says Sanjay Paul, is that "the natural antithesis to competition, collaboration, is the vastly more powerful tool at our disposal. In almost every worthwhile human endeavor, it was the harmonious, cumulative effort of a multiplicity of persons, often over many years, that yielded truly extraordinary results. There were two important eureka moments for me in college and one of them was the realization that my personal impact can be compounded by orders of magnitude through well-orchestrated collaboration."

9. Material things matter more than experiences.

It's important to work hard, and success is definitely a positive thing, but physical objects shouldn't be considered of higher importance than other more meaningful, albeit less tangible, alternatives. "This is not realized by many people even after they cross their 20's. You will be never satisfied by how much ever money you earn. There will always be space for more. You should not invest a lot in materialistic things like an expensive car or jewelry. Instead start investing in experiences. Travel the world and meet people of different cultures. This will open your mind to a lot of different perspectives and will give you much more satisfaction than money," says Nikant Vohra.

10. Talking is more powerful than listening.

It's surprising how much you can learn by simply taking in what is happening around you without attempting to interject or comment. You can see things you wouldn't see otherwise, and you can learn from what you see. As Carolyn Cho points out, "not all silence needs to be filled."

11. You are limited in what you can achieve.

When you make a mistake or fail at something, it can lead to a defeatist mentality that makes it hard to persevere or see the positives. However, we learn some of the most important lessons from these experiences, so it's essential that we don't allow ourselves to be limited in our capacity for success. As Sanjay Paul puts it, "You can claim to be constrained by virtually any circumstance and there will exist a counterexample in the form of someone who overcame it. We have a substantial degree of control over what we do and are only truly limited at the exact moment we tell ourselves 'I can't do it, so why try?'"

12. You need to have it all figured out.

Your 20s is a decade of growth and experience, but many people feel the pressure that their looming 30s brings. It's OK to still be exploring and figuring out what you want in life, even if the official "quarter-life crisis" days are coming to a close. "There is an enormous pressure in your 20s to get your life together and figure it all out. Most of us don't. Many of us do only to figure out later we were wrong," says Andrea Starrett. The important thing is to go at a pace that works for you, which will help you make decisions that you will be happy with in the long run.